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Jio Whizz: India’s Newest Cellco Hits the Ground Running

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By Pete BellDec 15, 2016

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It is unlikely that any operator has made a bigger splash following its launch than Reliance Jio Infocomm in India.

The cellco issued a press release earlier this month claiming to have signed up 52 million customers in 83 days. That’s an average of over 626,000 net additions every 24 hours – or more than seven new users a second.

Reliance Jio Infocomm is hoping to hit 100 million subscribers in the short term, although its initial target date of end-2016 now seems optimistic.

Delayed Launch

Jio finally announced its network switch-on on September 5, 2016, after a series of delays, which saw it push back planned launches several times in 2015. It eventually opened its networks on a trial basis in December 2015, but signups were limited to its employees.

Today, Jio’s network comprises more than 90,000 towers – around half of which are owned by the cellco.

However, by the time of its full commercial launch in September, the firm had signed a number of tower-sharing deals with firms such as Reliance Communications (RCOM) and Bharti Infratel. This gave Jio access to thousands of mobile towers nationwide, allowing it to hit the market with 4G LTE network coverage in 18,000 cities and 200,000 villages across all 22 of India’s telecoms circles.

Today, Jio’s network comprises more than 90,000 towers – around half of which are owned by the cellco; the remainder are leased.

Jio has plans to add another 40,000 LTE sites to its footprint, while also looking to upgrade to LTE-Advanced technology to boost peak data speeds and increase network capacity from 100 million users to 250 million.

Estimated 4G Market Share in India - Early December 2016

 

Welcome to Jio

Jio is headed by Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), whose brother Anil owns RCOM.

RIL’s deep pockets have enabled Jio to launch with a loss-leading campaign of completely free voice calls and data usage. Its disruptive welcome offer, which was initially set to run until the end of 2016, has effectively been extended through March 2017.

The operator has now introduced yet another offer – a “Happy New Year” promotion – under which customers that sign up to a Jio plan by March 4, 2017, will have access to free unlimited services through March 2017.

Subscribers already benefiting from the welcome offer will also reap the benefits of this new promotion.

The company is looking to strike back at the market’s leading incumbents over a dispute around points of interconnection.

If this sounds like a strikingly good deal – it’s because it is. And there’s reason for that, as well as reason for Jio threatening to extend the offer beyond March 31. The company is looking to strike back at the market’s leading incumbents over a dispute around points of interconnection.

Mukesh Ambani claims that anti-competitive behavior from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, and Idea Cellular has led to nearly 9 billion dropped calls in its network. These incumbent operators universally decided against exchanging traffic with Jio, resulting in the high volume of call drops – and igniting Jio’s interest in extending their free calls and data usage promos to poach customers.

4G Market Lead

Jio is using a combination of 800MHz/1800MHz FDD LTE networks and TD-LTE systems operating in the 2300MHz band. Voice-over-LTE equipment allows for voice as well as data services.

While its 52 million users represent only around 5% of India’s overall cellular market, the operator has made a massive impact in the country’s LTE sector.

Its focus on a 4G-only service has seen it leapfrog the established players to claim 51% of all LTE users in India at the end of September, rising to an estimated 72% by early December.

 

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Pete Bell

Pete Bell

Pete Bell is a Research Analyst for TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database and also contributes to the daily CommsUpdate newsletter. He has a particular interest in wireless broadband and was responsible for TeleGeography’s 4G Research Service until it was integrated into GlobalComms.

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